Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: At Eternity's Gate

It's a fair Vincent Van Gogh biopic, but fails to make a strong impression.




Photo by Lily Gavin
 

I have no idea whether I actually enjoyed “At Eternity’s Gate.”

A limited-scope biography of Vincent Van Gogh, the heavily stylized — I’m tempted to say “impressionist” — film is unhurried, never pointed and often drifts in and out of focus, both figuratively and literally. So while I most certainly watched it and definitely have some thoughts about it, it seems to resist categorization under labels as simple as good and bad.

Perhaps the painter would’ve preferred that?

We find Van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) in the final months of his life, disillusioned with the art world but not focused enough to make a grand gesture, like his friend Gauguin's (Oscar Isaac) move to Tahiti. Moreover, he’s completely broke — scraping by on the kindness of his beleaguered brother, Theo (Rupert Friend) — and in poor mental health, occasionally blacking out, sometimes waking up in asylums.

There’s a bit of the Van Gogh greatest hits here — no, we don’t see him cut his ear off, but we watch him try to explain that act to several people — but director Julian Schnabel is far more concerned with trying to create a cinematic version of Van Gogh’s mind. The camera is dazzled by bursts of color and the intricacies of nature; the audio is plagued with lines of dialogue which have hit the artist hard, some of them chanted like mantras. The lens almost breaks apart in moments of stress.

Long stretches are taken up by Van Gogh walking from one place to another, lost in reverie or despair. (These are actually quite lovely, thanks to an aching score by Tatiana Lisovskaya.) And though the film does end where you expect it might, this is not a movie that pulls toward tragedy with any palpable momentum; it rather seems to drift, absentmindedly, into a violent conclusion.

Dafoe has been widely praised for his performance, and he is quite good. I’m not sure this is the sort of singular turn that could or should push anyone to the theater, but he’s worthy of acclaim. (He is, however, 30 years too old to play Van Gogh. It would’ve been interesting to see this sort of angst on the face of an appropriately aged performer.)

So: Did I like it? I truly don’t know. I suppose I did. But my apathy should absolutely mute any endorsement; better films tend to provoke more remarkable reactions.

My Rating: 6/10
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

From ultra-premium experiences to bargains with great views, here are five perfect places to watch the Pens.

Lawrenceville Distilling Co. Introduces Its Absinthe

Already known for its Parking Chair vodka, the Lawrenceville distillery introduces absinthe named for a haunted house.

What Brought Walt Disney to Pittsburgh

A futuristic attraction at the Allegheny County Fair drew a curious Walt Disney to Pittsburgh — and had a lasting impact on modern transportation.

Writer Damon Young on "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker"

The co-founder of Very Smart Brothas chats about his new memoir — and the state of Pittsburgh.

Makeup Makers: More Beauty Brands are Coming out of Pittsburgh

A pair of local businesses are breaking into the health and beauty business with innovation and tenacity.

How Well Do You Know Pittsburgh?

What do you know about the fountain of youth in North Park? The relics at St. Anthony’s? The history of Pittsburghese? We bring you all this and more in our guide to Pittsburgh lore full of insider info and fun facts. Plus, take our quizzes to test your expertise of all things Pittsburgh.

Are You a Yinzer or a Pretender?

Whether you’ve lived in Pittsburgh your whole life or are a newcomer, there may be things you don’t know about our city — but you should –– so we have these quizzes to test your knowledge of the city’s pop culture, sports, food history and locales.

Restaurant Review: Northeastern Kitchen

The Squirrel Hill restaurant introduces Pittsburgh to Dongbei cuisine.

PM on KD: The Spring Weddings Issue

PM Content Coordinator Jesseca Muslin appears on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss our spring weddings issue.

Pens Need More from Malkin More Than Anything

Given what he’s capable of, and what we’ve too often seen instead, Evgeni Malkin has been the Pens’ most under-achieving player.

Pittsburgh's 12 Essential Restaurants

Step-by-step, these establishments helped build our dining scene. Even better, they still have something to offer today.

Finding a Unique Performer Close to Home

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company searched across the country for a key role in “Savior Samuel.” Then they found Aaliyah Sanders — in Edgewood.

Ten Thoughts While Staring at a Golden Eagle

Reflections upon encountering Autumn, a four-year-old golden eagle now residing at the National Aviary.

Love Thy Neighbor: Donating a Second Chance

Rachelle Jeffers and Allen ‘Bud’ Mitchell went to church together but they weren’t close. That changed when she found out he would die unless he found a liver donor. That’s how Jeffers became one of a growing number of living liver donors.

Our 50 Years: Rules for Dating in Pittsburgh in 1984

We took a serious look at romance. But with advice ranging from making sure restaurants have seductive lighting to the benefits of owning your own mansion, was it really meant to be serious?